Bestuv 2008, pt. 3: The BESTUV

[Okay. We’ve arrived. These are in no particular order, except for the actual best alb, which is last.]

new year (s/t) Just buy this. The opener, “Folios,” is almost too beautiful to be fully heard, but there you go…There’s something “pure” about this music. Yes, I know how stupid that sounds, but listen to this simple/smart Versailles packed out of melodic/dynamic sand. Here, you’re unthinkingly walking in on the Princess while she’s dressing. You’re finding baby Moses in the wicker basket among the reeds. You’re trying on some girl named Peggy’s soccer cleats.  Is Chris Brokaw as good a drummer as he is a gtr player? How can you say ‘no’ when there are performances like these on analog tape? I have only heard one or two Bedhead songs that chilled me the same way this “sunny, chilly January” kind of alb has… but I’ll be doing some more excavating, becuz the Kadanes are expert at all the things that matter to my hair and ears.

neil halstead (oh! mighty engine) Any white-belted mash-up purveyor on myspace can tell you that making albums so self-evident as Halstead’s is not the sort of thing to get you patched into the year-end bestuv lists. It’s almost as if, shit, Halstead doesn’t care. This is gorgeous, breezy (but not ‘lite’) stuff from the former Slowdive fire-setter. It’s not as exploratory as his also awesome solo debut, but it’s better still for the weird richness that defines its rather skeletal acoustic gtr/shakers architecture. I don’t know whether this alb is best described as “lean” (like a swimmer) or “husky”(like a sea lion), but it’s really present despite all its subtlety. It just may take four listens for you to be all the way there for it, though. [shh….! don’t tell elvira but i got her this for xmas. ‘wonder if i’ll ever get to the damned post office.]

joan of arc (boo! human) First off, what’s your favorite breakup album? This one’s about as explicitly that as any alb ever. I found Everything All at Once semi-boring, and had become quite convinced that Make Believe had become the most important venue for Tim Kinsella, but it seems like there might be a few stutter-steps left in the long-maligned “Joan of Arc” franchise. Besides “9/11 2” being the funniest song title/vocal performance of the year, this album brandishes herky-jerky, teeny-weeny acoustic gtr runs and two or three actually very accessible, sad songwriter-songs. I don’t feel like listening to breakup albums right now, but when I do again, I’ll turn on Blood On the Tracks (the NY Sessions). Afterwards maybe I’ll rock Boo! Human in the car. The car!

make believe (going to the bone church) My favorite math-rock/punk rock/’emo’ record of the year. The title track/instrumental is smashing, “People Laughing” is the best “political punk rock song” of 2008, and “(I Can’t Understand) Satisfaction” features another top truism, “all porn is gay porn.” Sam Zurich’s impossible gtr playing outshines any Hella or Don Cab or Fucking Champ licks out there, for my money, and the Nate Kinsella Wurlitzer/Drumkit show is more than just a Believe it Or Not novelty. Bobby Burg plays the world’s unlikeliest slant/vamps, in a weirdly dub-y way. What a band! Have they broken up again?

prisonshake (dirty moons) “I’m only four tracks deep, but if nothing else, Prisonshake’s Dirty Moons is the best-sounding, big, fat, analog, goopy mother-effer I’ve heard since Shellac’s Excellent Italian Greyhound – and the thing is, i’m listening to the cds that came tucked in with the big, goopy 180-gram 2xlps… god knows what the vinyl experience’ll be like. (btw, the music is not shellac-ish in the least, tho maybe it shares a similar wanton “pigfuck” sensibility.” [full blurbage here] Seriously, do you have a “2000s gtr rock” shelf full of the few, bestuv-the-bestuv that genre? You need to slip this in there, next to the Silkworm (It’ll Be Cool), the Magnolia Electric Co. (s/t), the Walkmen (100 Miles Off), the Bottomless Pit (Hammer of the Gods). Robert Griffin and Doug Enkler are weird, original, veteran rock musicians from the USA. This double album is filthy and vast and horny and resinated. Where were you in 2008?

ryan adams & the cardinals (cardinology) “And that’s how we leave it. I can bitch all i want about everything about ryan adams that doesn’t directly relate to my listening to his songs… But when i’m listening i’m pretty enthralled and pretty forgiving of his trespasses. His sonics and his phonics and his sins are endlessly understandable to me. And his band’s tone is my favorite one. Again, not all great songwriters – let alone great singers – have necessarily always written good lyrics….So long as the Cardinals remain the irresistible rock guitar force that they are, and so long as ryan adams and neal casal keep wrapping their throats around each other like lovers wrap around their nude legs… Well, there’s no need for Ryan Adams to say anything “literary” or even “sonorous,” let alone “true” (sic). I mean, all Van Morrison does these days is scat, right?” [full review here.] A coupla-six weeks and I’ll say, yeah, I think it’s the best Cardinals record. And I think the Cardinals are the best thing Adams has done. Sadly,  I am forever doomed to like Ryan Adams. Doesn’t that sound like the kind of fate assigned to characters out of Ovid, or the upper sections of the Inferno where Homer (and Ovid, come to think of it) hang out?

bob mould (district line) “i did such a job of keeping myself hermetically sealed off and safe from the 16/4 orgy that was techno’s era of blips that i am un-jaded when i hear mr. mould doing a 2008-ish, power-punk-joni-mitchell/cher thing. (seriously, this record plums deep autobiographical hieroglyphic territory under a disco ball moon.) i’ve avoided the vocoder and drum sequencer so well that i can talk optimistically about the possibility of combining ‘em with distorted guitars. hell, fripp did it.” [full splish-splash here.] Seriously. District Line joins Zen Arcade, Everything Falls Apart (and more), Copper Blue and Beaster among my 5 Mould albs  I’d most like to be buried with/make out to/read a 33 and 1/3 book  about.

walkmen (you and me) “what a depressing and great new walkmen alb!” “Pitchfork is right to name the “cavernous” guitar tone as a definitive Walkmen thing – as a long time believer in bass-y Fender tube tones, i must admit to wetting myself upon hearing the opening, muted gtr notes…” [more flanks here].It’s like Dylan, It’s like Fugazi, It’s like the Velvets, It’s like Faces… So sad, this album. It’s their Sister Lovers. A towering, sad, sad thing. Shimmering cave-guitar, throaty evocations of semi-cosmopolitan liqueurs, concrete-shattering drum-power and the concerted, collective semi-courage of a band sounding like a band.

david grubbs (an optimist notes the dusk) Like Mould, this is more of the music I’ll hear in my head when I think of 2008. (Oh, the mixtape I’m gonna make for you kids!) My favorite work from an all-time favorite songwriter. Opener “Gethsemani Nights,” to use an overused term, is haunting. As a kind of “haunted” person, myself, I see what could be my reflection in the long, romantic, lead run over the langurous horn – it’s one of the year’s most memorable “riffs,” but it’s also a bloody kite floating in the surf.  Grubbs guitar sounds are actually sometimes images on this record.  Seriously, this is a “monumental” record for its genre. And hell…if nobody notices, nobody notices. Grubbs seems to have a rather killer day job as it stands, and apparently doesn’t tour anywhere without ancient statuary. Is this “high modern” or “postmodern” music, by the way? Only academics would care, but, uh, yeah.

earles and jensen (just farr a laugh) ” Well, Earles and his equally adroit cohort Jensen have produced what has to be called the first truly ethnographic prank phone calls. The calls distinguish themselves as ethnographic practices to the extent that both Earles and Jensen’s many characters are receptive, attentive, and responsive to their interlocutors. In stark contrast to generic, stilted, pranks a la ‘Is Your Refrigerator Running?’ or ‘Do You Have Prince Albert in a Can?,’ Earles and Jensen actually create, uh, almost-conversations, in a way that sheds light on how well they know their characters. On a more formal level, I am more than pleased by the gaudy profanities, gaudy banalities and extended liner notes, all of which, again, evoke late-1980s, forced exposure aesthetics that i think are hotwired into my manboobs by now.. I try for all of those same vibes on this blog, it’s just that i’m nowhere near as intelligent or adept as these mothereffers, whose efforts and whose irony, like those of the Baffler or Doug Henwood or Scharpling, keeps me doing the very different things I do for a living.” [full previous rave here.] As I’ve laid on the line as plainly as is appropriate, lately my survival has more-than-usual hinged on being able to laugh my ass off. Of course this album helps with that, but it’s really way, way more. Honestly, I don’t know if Earles and Jensen could or should ever match this work… certainly it couldn’t be the same. But as they turn back towards “writing” and “The Jewish”-ing et. al., they can do so knowing that they have have not so much made an album as they have opened up a whole new universe, decorated it with trash and draped it with a really unlikely humanity and warmth.  When I say that like Bleachy, and like all of us, they, too, have longed to watch Murder, She Wrote at an appliance store – it is only to say that they know what it feels like to want not to feel alone.It shows, however counterintuitively, even in the context of a prank phone call album.  And the liner notes? They’re my favorite slab-slits of rock-write since the footnotes to the Chris Knox interview in you-know-what magazine. Just Farr a Laugh is the most important “literary novel” of post-war (any war) American life.


19 Responses to “Bestuv 2008, pt. 3: The BESTUV”

  1. gabbagabbahey Says:

    right on with the description of the New Year album as pure, simple/smart, melodic/dynamic. I’ve found I can’t properly hear the start of ‘Folios’ except on headphones, it’s always too quiet otherwise; but after that it’s just strum, strum, move up a chord, repeat, and it’s over before you know it. beautiful.

    ya gotta hear the last track on the Grails album (‘Acid Rain’, it’s on a mixtape on my blog somewhere) it’s like a gentle collision between the New Year and the Earth albums.

    I was going to make a joke about soccer cleats, but I reckon it would be a bit superfluous. They’re what I would know as boots with studs on, yes?

  2. Car Carpet Says:

    what’s your current mailing address? I have a disc for to send you. send it to gmail schmidrew if you’d rather.

  3. Wilbro Says:

    Can I get a motherfuckin’ Copchild?!? Anyone, anyone? COPCHILD!

    P.S., “Just Farr a Laugh” proved to be an enormous hit at the party on the East Side I went to last night. “Ditchweed” was a crowd favourite. “I want the most extreme dealer on The Lot”!!!

  4. Jordan Says:

    you can stop flogging yourself for liking Ry-Ry for a moment or two, cause I’ll go ahead and say that I dig the Cardinals and should definitely listen to them a whole lot more. I’ve enjoyed most every bit you linked to, so call me convinced.
    On a side note, have you been listening to the Arthur Russell shit being put out the past few years? I love this guy, both for his spaced out avant-ambient stuff (“instrumentals”) and his more song-cello stuff, “World of Echoes” especially. Not to mention the disco.

  5. Car Carpet Says:

    I like the arthur russell song, “eli,” about a dog. i cop’d it over on 20JFG.

  6. lexdexter Says:


    i dunno shit about Arthur Russell. school me.


    it’s probably at least as universally uncool to like Tim Kinsella as it is to like Ry-Ry Adams, anywho. but not unlike joining a fraternal organization, it’s also a really stimulating, really manic good time.

  7. andrew Says:

    if you scroll about 2/3 page down tp “Friday Dec. 5,” there’s the Arthur Russell tack i’m talkin bout 4 free

  8. kile Says:

    Russell was a big part of the NYC new-wave, performance, and gay disco scenes. While not making minimalist dance music, he would record solo Cello performances that were pretty amazing (based on documentary footage I’ve seen). Worked with David Byrne and Phillip Glass. Died of AYDS.

    There’s a beautiful documentary on him called “Wild Combination” that’s been touring the country. It’s not a great introduction to him since it’s not very performance heavy, but still is worth checking out.

  9. kile Says:

    BTW, there should be a spot for Harvey Milk’s _Life…the Best Game in Town_ somewhere on yr pts 1, 2 or 3s.

  10. km Says:

    thanks, once again, for keeping those of us in the colonies up to speed and what’s going on in the lower 48.

    i haven’t spent the time to figure out ‘insound’ or any of them other interfaces, so hopefully you’ll forgive me my restrictive, 2001 technology, but i just iTunes-ed the Grubbs album–the first 5 songs for 4.96 anyway–and it’s living up the billing.



  11. lexdexter Says:

    km, the grubbs is so, so strong. lyrics are so, so good.

    kyle, I KNOW. i am ashamed that i don’t have ALL of the harvey milk on vinyl. that and the Volcano Suns reissues are my “rock vinyl priorities” for 2009.

    gabba, “boots with studs on:” abso-fucking-lutely.

    jordan, i wish i could sit around and sing old time Dixieland songs. you know, the ones we like to sing so much? i bet trefz would like to hear our old time Dixieland songs, too.

    everybody, Prisonship programming is on the verge of an exciting, decisive turn. but first we shall undergo the 2008 bestuv mix-blowout! no fuckin’ rules, dude!

  12. gabbagabbahey Says:

    actually from what I remember when I was ten, “football boots” was the more technical term (having essentially only one form of football)…

    excited about this new turn (and the mix-tape)! look out for an interview with Joe McRedmond on HfN sometime soon.

  13. kile Says:

    Let’s take this bitch off the chain!

  14. Jordan Says:

    Russell was also musical director of the Kitchen for a while. Also, based on the doc, it seems like Allen Ginsburg had a huge crush on him.

  15. evil r + b guy Says:

    I’ll tell you what, Lips. I’m ready to sing some songs in the month of March.

  16. lexdexter Says:

    exactly, r+b. we’re gonna perpetrate some shit.

  17. kile Says:

    Side A of Shearwater’s _Rook_ places very high in the best of ’08

  18. lexdexter Says:

    kile, do things go off the chain on side B?

  19. kile Says:

    Not really, but I found myself giving a lot of attention to the first half. Ignore my nerdy specifics. The whole thing is worth grabbin.

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